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Demystifying Story

By David Mills on November 25, 2014

The word "story" has become a buzz-word in the last couple of years. Everyone seems to be using the vague concept of story in reference to marketing strategy and brand equity. But, what is story in a professional context?

To understand story, we first have to consider the word "brand."

Some would say a brand is a logo, and they would be wrong. Some would say it is the visual and conceptual identity of a business, and that’s not completely true either. Branding is the whole package – it is the visual logo and identity of a business, their tagline, their mission, their vision, and — most importantly — it is the connotation that consumers have with these images and phrases. Brands live within the founders and employees of a company. If they don't live the brand in action, tone, and even vocabulary, then there is no brand.

Let's talk about Disney.

Not only are the visuals for Disney consistent and recognizable, but every employee has to go through brand training. Employees at a park don't ask: "Did you have a great day?" They ask: "Did you have a magical day?" *MAGIC* is the way they've chosen to deliver their brand promise and value proposition. And they use it incessantly. "Have a magical meal," "Hope your ride is magical," "It's a magical day at Disneyland."

So, how does story fit into the equation? Walt Disney is a foundational piece of their puzzle. Somehow, they've turned Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse into an inseparable duo -- bringing the little drawn character into the life and heart of Walt Disney and his incredible empire.

But, they could not have captured the imagination of their customer without bringing their audience into the story. Disney and Mickey are great -- but why do I care? In a world of constant, overpowering, obnoxious advertising noise, why should I pay attention?

Creating a Brand Story means understanding your audience, and placing them into the messaging and imagery of your marketing. Shaping and maintaining that story requires that you listen to the reviews, tweets, Facebook comments, articles, forums, and complaints of every customer. Responding to those concerns in a timely and appropriate manner can make a world of difference. The narrative of your business is no longer controlled by an internal employee, but by potential, current, and former customers.

It's also important to recognize that while traditional stories are linear, brand stories are not always connected chronologically. Having content on your website, social media, and print that is relevant to your story requires a cloud of information that all speak to your audience in an effective way.

Mirror your audience, talk about what they are talking about, and connect those interests and concerns to the product or service you have to offer.

You're not just telling your story, you're telling their story.

Here are three ways to get started:

  1. Create a persona of your core audience. Choose if they are male or female, give them a name, give them hobbies, friends, family, a career...
  2. Get into the mind of that persona and mold some messages based on their interests.
  3. Post on social consistently. Listen a lot. Respond promptly.
David Mills

Written by David Mills

David is one of the founders of Story Collaborative and serves as the Chief Growth Officer. He is passionate about finding the right strategy for each client and helping them move into sustainable growth. He is a veteran of organizational development and communications and has worked with thousands of businesses and nonprofits across the country.